- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. Autumn temperatures can be felt during the nights, and warm waters slowly will grow much cooler and begin to elicit more vigorous strikes from all game fish species. Even the daytime will feel more comfortable as you cast lures or bait for a variety of local fish.

It begins with the tidal water bass fishing in the Potomac, Rappahannock and Susquehanna rivers — the three most likely to turn up quality catches. However, especially in the case of the Potomac, you soon will notice decaying water weeds floating hither and yon, fouling lines and hooks. Don’t despair. It won’t stop the fish catches. All you need to do is pick your spots a little more carefully.

In the case of the Chesapeake Bay, it will be one continuously good time as Spanish mackerel, bluefish and rockfish hold court. The “Spanish,” as locals refer to them, will leave the moment the water chills, but the blues and stripers will be here for some time yet. Actually, the rockfish will be here until snow and then some. Of course, you also will notice that the croakers and spot will depart when the water chills seriously.

With cooler, more predictable weather, the mountain rivers also deliver the goods, and right now is a fine time to seek the smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac, Shenandoah, Rappahannock, James and Susquehanna rivers. The only sour note in the mountain waters can be the falling autumn leaves that surely can clog up the intakes of water jet-driven outboard motors.

E-mail Gene Mueller at [email protected]

(RATINGS KEY: ….=EXCELLENT FISHING; …=GOOD; ..=FAIR; . =POOR.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) expect the usual summer fare: catfish and an occasional bass or walleye. South of Washington, bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) find plenty of action with soft plastics, topwater buzzbaits and poppers, as well as occasional crankbaits like the Mann’s Baby 1-Minus. Said Andrzejewski, “It looks like everybody’s catching bass.” Productive outings are had from Aquia Creek north to the Chicamuxen, Pomonkey and Piscataway. In the saltier parts of the river, from St. Clements down to Point Lookout, expect scattered rockfish and some bluefish but few croakers. The flounder fishing still hasn’t recovered from Tropical Storm Ernesto, but a few can be found at Piney Point’s loading dock area and down toward Point Lookout at Cornfield Harbor.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — Around Quade’s Store in Bushwood on the St. Mary’s County side of the river the white perch are mostly in weedy shoreline pockets, with keeper spot and croakers difficult to find in deeper water.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Good news: The new boat ramp on Mattingly Avenue is open now, but tow vehicles have to be parked a few hundred yards up the road in a small gravel parking lot. Bass catches are made by anglers using finesse worms and topwater baits almost anywhere along the creek’s marsh banks and spatterdock pockets, as well as sunken wood.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is definitely good for sunfish and some bass. It’s a great place to bring a young angler and his worm-and-bobber rig. In St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) you will hook a few decent bass, plenty of sunfish and maybe a pickerel here and there. Water levels are up and getting better every day.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (…) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) will deliver bass, sunfish and catfish. These lakes are worth a visit, especially as temperatures are dropping a bit.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (..) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Triadelphia is not available, but Rocky Gorge johnboaters find bass as they use 4-inch scented plastic worms, spinnerbaits and jointed Rebel or Rapala jerkbaits around stickups and lake points.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Rockfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel have been hooked around the Cedar Point area. In fact, snapper blues and young rockfish are inside the river from the mouth up to the Clark’s Landing area. White perch continue to readily strike small spinnerbaits and Mini Rat-L-Traps.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) and up toward Bull Run, bass fishing can be pretty good if you use plastic worms, tubes and pig’n’jigs around creek entrances and fallen timber. Crappie chances are increasing daily.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Good bass opportunities are in stickups and lake point dropoffs. Short scented, plastic worms are best, although early hour Rapala jerkbaits also produce. Catfish and crappies oblige.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — It all depends on heavy rains. If they come, water will rise and be discolored, but if it’s cool and dry, smallmouth bass will be on a rampage. Tubes and grubs, crankbaits and small topwater propeller baits will be looked at from Taylor’s Landing in Washington County downstream to Seneca Creek in Montgomery County.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) continues to find excellent bass numbers by skipping fringed tubes under floating docks and hard jerkbaits along the edges of weed beds that soon will come apart and drift about, then sink.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — Good bass chances from Havre de Grace on out to the edges of the river, around the Apartment Cove and some portions of the Flats. Plastic worms, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are the way to go.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — Hordes of mixed-size bluefish and youthful stripers are roaming the bay’s waters from above the Chesapeake Bay Bridges, near Annapolis, down to the Virginia state line. Trollers and chummers score fairly easily, but it’s the boaters who have the most fun carry along a couple of casting or spinning rods that hold a topwater Zara Spook, an Atom plug, a blunt-nosed surface popper of any manufacturer or a sub-surface Rat-L-Trap. So many surface-feeding schools of fish are seen — given away by diving birds and clouds of leaping baitfish — that most all of the boaters who keep an eye out connect on fish. Spanish mackerel are also around, and they’re usually trolled for with small silver or gold spoons and light inline sinkers. Some of the afternoon and evening bluefish and striper fishermen who visit the area bordered by Buoy 72, the Middlegrounds and the state line also connect on red drum (aka redfish and channel bass), along with a mix of croakers and even a few flounder.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on up to the Northern Neck, expect cooperative blues, rockfish and Spanish mackerel. The bridge-tunnel’s abutments, islands and pilings also hold sheepshead, flounder and a few fine spadefish. Near the Maryland line, say from the Rappahannock mouth to the Smith Point area of the lower Potomac, scads of bluefish and small rockfish are seen. However, expect a size increase in the stripers. Some 4- to 6-pound rockfish have already been found by chum boats.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The Cambridge fishing bridge should deliver some perch, catfish and maybe an odd croaker. But the croakers will leave soon. At the mouth large schools of snapper blues and rockfish are seen. Upper river bass fishing will get under way any day now as water temperatures decline.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The going is slow in most sectors, but one visitor from the Washington area, Glenn Riley, and a friend had a fine day hooking 1- to 2-pound bass on Mann’s Baby 1-Minus lures just below Snow Hill.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) The Marshyhope turned up a few decent fish this week. Most of them came on plastic worms, but one e-mailer said he scored early in the day with small topwater poppers around the many stickups in the creek.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Good bass fishing comes early and late as topwater lures and soft plastics rule the roost around lake points and sunken brush. Rockfish are unpredictable, but they show up near the Splits almost every day before sunrise. Have a rod with a jerkbait or a Rat-L-Trap ready when they come to the surface.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) Lower tidal portions give up bass in the 2-pound range above Port Royal. Short plastic worms do the job, as will 1/4-ounce Rat-L-Traps and Sugar Shads. The upper river should be good for some decent smallmouths that like tubes, grubs, small crankbaits and topwater poppers and buzzers.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Sunfish and catfish are a given, but bass hounds also score with 4-inch scented Power Worms and slowly retrieved spinnerbaits.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappies are showing up in some of the stickups and sunken brush. Live minnows under a bobber will get them. The bass like plastic worms around weed edges and sunken wood.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Early birds score with topwater lures in most of the feeder creeks and along weedbed edges and points. Some rockfish and walleyes are hooked.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Big blue catfish are guaranteed if you soak some juicy cut-fish baits on the bottom, but now the largemouth bass also begin to cooperate if you throw jerkbaits or soft plastics to the corners of creek mouths. Crappies are tough to find for some reason.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (..) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) There’s blue catfish in the Dutch Gap area, for sure, but the overall fishing should be better. For example, where is the good bass fishing? It ought to be a lot better.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (…) — (Williamsburg area) Bass, catfish and panfish make this a good pick, but don’t expect big largemouths. Most are in the 1- to 2-pound range.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch will deliver decent bass, sunfish and catfish catches if it doesn’t rain too much.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Bass catches have perked up a bit, but when compared to some other lakes and rivers, this place is still best know for striped bass, not the largemouth variety.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Rain will hurt if it comes down hard, but until then the smallmouth bass fishing can be super.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore fishing rules the roost in this resort town. Marlin, dolphinfish, wahoos, tunas and sharks, not to mention tunas, are all over the distant canyon waters. Closer in, bluefish can be found in good numbers, while inshore species, such as stripers, croakers and snapper blues, are available within walking distance from the hotels. Flounder catches in the backwaters are fair.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Offshore charter vessels connect on billfish, wahoos and sharks, as well as dolphinfish. Tunas are also around. Large amberjacks are hooked along with scattered bluefish around the Chesapeake Light Tower as well as other close-in towers. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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